Ra Ra Riot stay true to their track record on Need Your Light, released February 19th. Their previous albums have not been successful due to well roundedness; rather, they each gained popularity due to a focus on one or two good songs. Particularly, “Can You Tell” and “Dying is Fine” off of The Rhumb Line are excellent enough to still hold rank amongst my gigantic Alternative playlist. With their new release, RRR presents “Water,” “Absolutely,” “Foreign Lovers,” and “I Need Your Light,” tail ended by six forgettable offerings.
“Water,” released back in 2015 as a teaser to Need Your Light, has finally begun to gain traction on Sirius XM’s Alt Nation’s Alt18 Countdown; however, one should take the rise of the song with a grain of salt. Songs released as singles by well-known bands usually find their way onto radio waves sooner—take Miike Snow’s “Genghis Khan” as a prime example. It seems like the popular rotation of “Water” will be ephemeral, fading away with the increasing vintage of the album. The success of “Water” should largely be attributed to production and publicity assistance furnished by Rostam Batmanglij. Rostam left the widely known Vampire Weekend in late January to essentially do his “own thing” as a songwriter and producer, and RRR just happened to be in the right place at the right time to acquire his services. Rostam has since released a few singles, demonstrating that his work with RRR was simply a stepping-stone towards a future of more individualistic nature.
Returning to the core of Need Your Light, “Absolutely” is easily the catchiest song of the album. With pleasantly beachy guitar strums and simplistic lyrics, it is both uplifting and reminiscent of several successful sounds currently floating around the alt-verse. Specifically, its general vibe reminds me of modern day Walk the Moon; granted, though, it has nothing on “Anna Sun.”
“Foreign Lovers” serves as an appropriate contrast to “Absolutely”. Where “Absolutely” offers a constant cheery sound, “Foreign Lovers” is tied together with a less sanguine rhythm. Nonetheless, every iteration of its chorus injects some signature RRR pep, and, at only two minutes in length, it moreso serves as a bridge between two better songs.
When I first listened to the album’s title track, I was kind of zoning out. Then it hit a really intriguing build-up, caught my attention, and forced me to listen to it a few times through. There’s an ethereal power wielded by singers as they belt phrases until breathless. In “I Need Your Light”, Wes Miles channels this fascinating ability. Through the better part of the album, Miles does not necessarily test out his full vocal range (“Water” excluded). The way he progresses from almost a whisper to an all out call to the heavens makes me feel like the entire album is worthwhile. Like poetry, all it takes is one little element to make a whole piece resonate. Not surprisingly, “I Need Your Light” joins “Water” as songs made in collaboration with Rostam. I would go into review of the final six songs, but I feel as though it would be a disservice to the stellar aspects of Need Your Light. I am thankful that RRR lined up the better pieces at the very beginning, so I am able to leave you with this concise, positive review.
photo credit to pitchfork.com